“How was Alice in Wonderland?”

Posted on March 16, 2010

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My family and I watched Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland and we loved it!

And TIME magazine’s Richard Corliss agrees, he calls it: “Mostly frabjous.”

Now there’s a word my first grader should know. Frabjous. I like it!

We sort of fell into this rabbit hole! On Sunday morning after church we found ourselves driving to the movies. The kids weren’t sure if we’d actually go, probably because of the previous last minute cancellations; failed attempts that at this point made them hesitate to get excited.

Well I was excited!  I wasn’t just considering that this might be the first Tim Burton film we could watch together, I was secretly planning on it!

The kids’ eyes looked around in disbelief as I parked the car. Their innocent hesitation was clear in their silence but more so when we walked by the “Alice and Wonderland” poster, a good 50 feet from the box office and our youngest son  implied his request, “I love that movie guys.” Jenny, my wife, and I knew he spoke for his older brother and sister as well. This was their reoccurring plea. They essentially were saying, “so can we please finally see this movie?” And who were to deny them that joy? Truth is, when we drove out of church earlier that morning, we caught a sudden glance of each other with little kid eyes, filled with that silent spontaneous spirit.  She knew I had an epiphany and I knew she’d comply:

So we acted on it!

A LIGHTER DOSE OF TIM BURTON…

As I paid for our tickets I realized the last Tim Burton film I saw was Sweeny Todd, also starring, Johnny Depp, one of my favorite actors. Yeah, I don’t think the kids can understand why Johnny splatters murals of blood from Todd’s barber chair, providing the essential ingredient for Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies. (which, by the way, was played poignantly by Helena Bonham Carter.)

She was wonderful today as the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland.

No, today,  I was glad my only concern was making sure my 3 yr. old son knew to keep his 3-D glasses on in order to enjoy the movie. I later realized he took them off in order to ease the thrill of objects popping out at him, you know, his little way of easing the potential tension and fear of watching Alice battle it out with the Jabberwocky. You think he was frightened, lucky for me he was sitting on my lap!

At first, I did walk in a bit skeptical; all kinds of mixed reviews from friends and so called “renouned” critics at Variety.com tarnished my initial delight about Tim Burton working on this story. They made me doubt,  prepared me for the possibility of disappointment, which never occurred. The current buzz and commentary rang a bit too loud in my head about the lack of “Tim Burton like style”, which I personally think is utter nonsense; the scene of Alice jumping on the floating heads of the Red Queen’s victim, in order to get to the castle walls, comes to mind. Definitely a Tim Burton touch. I’m not sure if this was also inspired by Through Looking Glass, but still, he put it into a Disney movie. And that’s impressive.

There was something greater at play here. It just wasn’t about Tim Burton, or Johnny Depp today. It was about the thrill of taking an uncharted adventure to the movies with my favorite people in the whole world: my wife and kids.

When we finally settled into our seats my oldest son grabbed me by the arm and said, “thank you daddy, finally”.  I leaned closer and as he squeezed my arm and I looked over to see my other two kids and my lovely wife all geared up with their 3-D glasses, bound for adventure.  This was my little sanctuary, my brief moment of peace. Then the lights dimmed and the fun began. My imagination easily saw the transformation of screen to window; a window into the life of Alice, the girl with a recurring bad dream, that only her father had the words to mend in the opening scene.

And then I had a flashback…CUT TO:

Finding the trailer at the end of last year, after a brutal search online…okay, okay I found it on apple movie trailers, not really too much of a hunt. Still, we watched it and we were determined to know the opening date and set a goal to make it to opening night.  And finally here we were, maybe not when we intended, but we made it.

I’M CALLING IT A FAMILY EPIC…

I am a sucker for epic films. I didn’t expect this to carry any elements of what I consider to be an epic.

A good epic has a plot with a high sense of adaptability to it, you know, similar to  Lord of the Rings, where the emotional journey is open to logical, yet personal interpretation. A good epic is driven by characters that are challenged to grow beyond themselves, to battle the physical and emotional foes that aim to bring them down, like Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter. I can relate to these characters in so many ways.

After this first screening of Alice and Wonderland, I’m not sure if I felt like Alice, who seems very alone and strangely liberated to face herself;  searching for a way to steer away from her pre-determined path back in the real world.  I did, however, relate to the Mad Hatter, waiting and recalling better times.  The times of the White Queen’s reign, before the destruction of something dear to him, hoping for the return of his heroine and friend, Alice.

BEWARE THE SPOILERS,HERE THEY COME !

We see the Mad Hatter’s home and tea party consumed with gloom, brightened only with the hysterical presence of his friends, the Mad Hare and Door mouse. But he barely sees them, he sees only Alice as she approaches his table, no longer a little girl. He charges at her, walking across his table with determination.  He doesn’t question “if she is the right Alice”, he knows who she is and in fact calls her out on losing her “muchness”.  He affects her,  he shrinks her with a tender violence into his tea cup in order to protect her from the Knave of Hearts, Stayne. Then he has to let her go.  He eventually sends her off with blind faith that she’d fulfill her task.

Even though she was right there in his tea cup, he could not help  but doubt and hope all at the same time! What a great dynamic! Another amazing performance by Johnny Depp.

This is much like real life for me, convincing myself I see treasure in a tea cup, doing the impossible to keep it safe, while the tea party has gone absolutely mad! Forgive my poetics, but this movie struck a deep nerve but rest assured I will gladly clarify by request…

ALAS, MY FINAL WORDS…you’ve made it out the rabbit hole!

I thought the film was witty but mostly courageous in changing the central character’s age.  It’s innovative! It’s Tim Burton! He liberates the adult in me to be a kid again.  He made an unexpected, yet pleasant sequel; it worked for me. Bringing Alice back at an older age, struggling to identify herself and her purpose, reminds me of my days as a kid, when I hid in the high branches of trees, where I had all sorts of adventures and I knew who I wanted to be.  Now, I have to remember some of those childhood memories only as dreams or nightmares, but they were quite real and they helped me discover who I need to be today. ( Hey look at that…I guess I do relate to Alice huh? Wonderful.)

As I walked out of the theater my daughter summed it up for all of us, “I really loved that movie so much.”

Now its your turn…take the surveys and leave a comment!

If you’ve seen the film, I think you’ll enjoy this.

Those of you that have not seen it, will you? Why or Why not?[

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Posted in: Film, Life